There was applause throughout last week’s public hearing for the purchase of nearly 19 acres of farmland at the 555 property in Amagansett.
For $10.1 million, the East Hampton Town Board voted on Thursday, April 17, to go forward with the Community Preservation Fund purchase in order to have the property remain farmland.
It had been a long year of back-and-forth between proponents of a proposed luxury senior housing community and Amagansett residents who were opposed to the idea.
“Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” Amagansett resident Diana Walker exclaimed in agreement with the CPF purchase proposal at the Town Board hearing on Thursday. “The thought that this beautiful farmland might be preserved makes me extraordinarily happy.”
In the winter, the town approached the landowner, Putnam Amagansett Holdings LLC, about the possibility of buying the property.
The property has three parcels, but the town would be purchasing only two. Both are zoned for residential use and, after the purchase, must be used for farming and/or recreation. Putnam Amagansett plans to keep the third 4.5-acre parcel, which is zoned for affordable housing.
The town’s new farmland can be used for any kind of agriculture, since agriculture is a preexisting, nonconforming use. The westernmost parcel that the town is considering for purchase includes a horse stable, office space and an apartment.
Under the proposal, the town would be able to license space on the land to farmers, according to Scott Wilson, the town’s director of land acquisition and management.
Many members of the public on Thursday expressed their happiness that the land would not be developed but instead possibly farmed, and their vista saved.
“It’s a dream come true for me that we have the chance to preserve this acreage,” said Joan Tulpe. “This land is such a great asset to the people of Amagansett. It was almost snagged from us by 555,” she said of Putnam, whose luxury senior housing proposal was known as “555 Amagansett.”
Some residents expressed concern that the town would be taking on a burden by purchasing a parcel with a building on it, since CPF funds cannot be used for the maintenance of that building. Supervisor Larry Cantwell said the town had considered that issue but didn’t see it as a major problem. “It is the goal of the board to see it remain open and used for agriculture,” he said.
Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc said that U.S. Assemblyman Fred Thiele is looking into legislation that would liberalize the CPF designation to allow CPF buildings to be used for community events.